Please note! Course description is confirmed for two academic years, which means that in general, e.g. Learning outcomes, assessment methods and key content stays unchanged. However, via course syllabus, it is possible to specify or change the course execution in each realization of the course, such as how the contact sessions are organized, assessment methods weighted or materials used.


Students of various disciplines are expected to attain a more informed understanding of central notions and questions related to design and to culture. Multi-cultural, trans-disciplinary approaches are considered relevant in the learning processes. Learning objectives include:
- increased awareness of and insight into the own agency as cultural actor;
- increased understanding for situating design in the larger political, social and cultural structures and discourses;
- increased familiarity with Finnish design and the international design scene.
Conceptual objectives are thus associated with an understanding of notions and principles; attitude objectives are associated with fostering a socially and culturally-aware mindset more adequate for reflecting critically about the design field and its role in society; and objectives related to skills are associated with expanding the toolset required for being able to take informed stands toward design(s), design disciplines and the design professions.

Credits: 5

Schedule: 19.04.2021 - 28.05.2021

Teacher in charge (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022): Paola Cabrera Viancha, Tim Smith

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Paola Cabrera Viancha, Tim Smith

Contact information for the course (valid 01.04.2021-21.12.2112):

Paola Cabrera

CEFR level (applies in this implementation):

Language of instruction and studies (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022):

Teaching language: English

Languages of study attainment: English


  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    UWAS Design & Culture offers students diverse insights into the interrelationships, and the tensions, between design practices, design artifacts, design policies, sustainability, consumption, culture and cultural action. Students are encouraged to critically assess design work as part of wider cultural, social and political entities, reflect on their own (potential) roles and agency as cultural actors, and recognize options for designerly undertakings. The learning objectives of the course are supported among others by means of discussion of real life cases; the course includes in-house and guest lectures by professional practitioners, local outings, and literature reviews and writing and active discussion.

  • Applies in this implementation:

    Specifics about the course content in this implementation are found in the Home page and the Program page.

    In 2021 UWAS-C0029 Design and Culture (5 cr) takes place in period V (19.4. - 28.5.2021)
    (unlike in previous versions when it took place on two periods, IV and V).

Assessment Methods and Criteria
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Students are expected to be critical, to contest or re-characterize any given or mainstream notions. The assessments reflect both the quality of the contributions and work as well as the commitment to the components and dynamics of the Course. Students must attend minimum 80% of the contact sessions i.e. lectures, excursions, discussions etc. Completion of all assignments and deliverables is required, as are active participation in all the components of the Course:

    Lectures and excursions, workshops, discussion
    Collaborative work online, reporting
    Learning diary, also online
    Reporting, evaluation, feedback, also online

  • Applies in this implementation:

    Criteria for weekly self-assessments and for the final assessment on the 1-5 scale:

    – a 5 will normally be granted to work that demonstrates excellence in all areas;
    – a 4 will be granted to a work that is excellent if uneven or slightly lacking in some area;
    – a 3 suggests the work is good but the issues are not very developed, or that there are shortcomings in structure, critical insight or presentation;
    – a 2 may refer to pertinent contents but weaker, possibly superficial or mechanical;
    – a 1 is normally granted to work that shows scarce commitment to, and/or little effort or understanding of, the course content.

    Eventual delays in submission of deliverables impact the assessments.

  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Contact sessions: Lectures and workshops, outings, guided discussion, 36 hours

    Independent work, reflection, 70 hours, including these learning activities:

    Research: observation, documentation, 6 hours

    Literature reading, 38 hours

    Learning diary, also online, 14 hours

    Collaborative work, also online, reporting, 10 hours

    Reporting, evaluation, feedback, also online, 2 hours

    Attendance required 80%

    (Workload changed by decision of Rasmus Vuori 11.3.2021)

  • Applies in this implementation:

    UWAS-C0029 Design and Culture, 5 cr, 2021, period V

    While the different learning activities are intertwined in practice, the workload distribution (135 h (5 cr) 1 period) can be considered as follows:

    –    Contact sessions: Lectures and workshops, outings, guided discussion, 36 hours
    –    Independent study includes (estimated dedication 99 hours):

    Free observation, documentation, reflection, 54 hours
    Studying material by reading, video watching, 24 hours
    Learning diary, also online, 10 hours
    Collaborative work, also online, reporting, 9 hours
    Reporting, (self-)assessment, feedback, also online, 2 hours


Study Material
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Supplementary bibliography and sources will be published in MyCourses; there will be also material suggested in each particular session and also by the confirmed guest speakers. The main works to guide in the discussions are:

    Julier, Guy. 2014. The Culture of Design. Sage. (In Aalto Finna.)

    Julier, Guy. 2017. Economies of design. Sage. (In Aalto Finna.) (Book review by Carol Meachem.)

    Korvenmaa, Pekka. 2014. Finnish design: a concise history. Aalto ARTS Books, Aalto University, in association with V&A Publishing, London. (In Aalto Finna.) Finnish version of the same book: Taide & Teollisuus: Johdatus suomalaisen muotoilun historian.

  • Applies in this implementation:

    Get familiar in advance with the course books. These are found in Aalto Primo and here are related links:

    Julier, Guy. 2014. The Culture of Design. Sage.

    Julier, Guy. 2017. Economies of design. Sage.

    Korvenmaa, Pekka. 2014. Finnish design: a concise history. Aalto University.

    Other material are to be provided per session, by guest practitioners and speakers.

  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:



Details on the schedule
  • Applies in this implementation:

    UWAS-C0029 Design and Culture 2021
    V Period Mondays and Fridays, 15:15-18:00.
    Start Monday 19.4., End Friday 28.5.

    The schedule and the material concerning the specific sessions and other tasks and exercises will be found in the Program page.

    The course’s weekly structure is designed with consideration to pedagogical and practical reasons: whenever possible Monday afternoons are destined for content and reflection mainly in lecture and workshop formats, and Friday afternoons would be most for outings. Slight changes to the predefined time slots may occur, most probably on Fridays due to scheduling demands of a particular outing.

    Note that because of restrictions due to SARS-CoV-2, the outings will likely be adapted to varied 'virtual' modes of visitation and discussion.